EU members are upset they need to fill their passports with US visasImage: picture-alliance/dpa
EU Visa Demands
DW staff (nda)
October 5, 2006
The EU and the United States could be on collision course after the European Commission revealed that interior ministers will debate reintroducing visa controls for US diplomats in response to strict stateside criteria.
In what could be seen as a retaliatory measure against the United States for its refusal to waive visas for people coming from 10 of the European Union's 25 member states, the European Commission will debate the possibility of making US diplomats apply for visas.
European interior ministers are meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday and the issue is likely to come up as European anger at the US visa waiver program increases.
It is understood that Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini recently informed US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that the US position is "no longer understandable and acceptable."
Ten member states excluded by US
The US program states that a visa can only be waived for a particular country when its citizens are rarely refused a visa and rarely overstay in the US.
Greece and nine of the states which joined the EU in 2004 are still not included in the visa waiver program. Only Slovenia has been awarded this privilege while Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary have led demands for retaliatory measures.
Frattini wrote to Chertoff urging him to recognize the "concrete and tangible progress" the states had made to improve the security of their borders.
In total, 27 countries are included in the US program, which allows their citizens to visit for three months without a visa.
Sanctions on Canada, Australia unlikely
The interior ministers will consider a Commission report that states, "Appropriate steps vis-a-vis the United States could be envisaged, for example temporarily restoring the visa requirement for US nationals holding diplomatic and duty/official passports."
Canada and Australia, which also require visitors from a number of EU states to apply for visas, will not face similar sanctions as the Commission believe that these nations have made sufficient progress in relaxing their own visa programs and have given a clearer picture of what EU states have to do to achieve waiver status.
"What we need is a country-by-country analysis of the criteria the United States considers unmet," said Friso Roscam Abbing, a Justice Commission spokesperson. "This is an extremely frustrating exercise for the citizens from those member states."